No word yet from Columbia Gas

| 10 Jan 2014 | 01:15

By Charles Reynolds
— Despite numerous attempts to contact officials from Columbia Gas — the first letter having been sent July 4, 2013 — there has been no response form the company concerning whether or not they will adhere to a township request to come in for a conditional use hearing on the compressor upgrade project.

Township officials say best way to be able to protect residents is to get the company, which has come before this and other municipal bodies in the past, in for a conditional use hearing so they can determine what, if any, harmful effects the new compressor might have.

Groups like Alex Lotorto's Energy Justice and Jolie DeFeis' Stop The Milford Compressor Station believe that the recent overturning of certain sections of Act 13 give credence and precedence to municipalities having more control over oil pipelines and compressor stations being built within their boundaries.

According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling of Dec. 19, 2013, municipalities can no longer be restricted from setting zoning on gas drilling, compressor stations and processing facilities. The courts found the three sections concerned to be a violation of the PA state constitution, which Article 1 Section 27 states “the people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic value of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.”

Resident Justin Snyder of Fire Tower Road — his front door is 300 yards from the existing compressor station — came before the supervisors after hearing of the court's ruling from his attorney. His concern about the new compressor station build was not only about his property value dropping to zero but also for the health and safety of his family. “My boys want to be on TV,” he quipped. “But not with their house burning in the background.”

Snyder wanted to know what the township intended to do about the project, whether they were going to fight or just “sit on their laurels” so he would know what kind of money he would have to spend fighting them (Columbia Gas).

Lotorto offered up some suggestions on how the township could proceed, some ordinance changes and some zoning suggestions. DeFeis brought up the possibility to making changes that would affect future bans on things such as fracking, as a preemptive measure.

“We cannot zone them out,” supervisor Gary Williams cautioned, citing the unfortunate lawsuit that cost Westfall $25 million when they tried to do something similar. But both he and Gary Clark said they would do “whatever we can do” to protect residents, as well as try to bring the company in for a hearing. Williams added that the township solicitor would look into the changes to Act 13, the suggestions by Lotorto and DeFeis.

Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG) companies, headquartered in Houston, Texas, own and operate more than 15,700 miles of strategically located natural gas pipelines, integrated with one of the largest underground storage systems in North America.

Question abut benefits

When the township's 2014 budget was passed (2 to 1, with Clark and Williams voting for and Quick voting against) in December, Quick at that time questioned why the township's lone employee's salary was not plainly laid out in the figures. Secretary Viola Canouse explained that the state required certain activities be placed in certain categories — building labor, snow wages, highway labor. Quick then did an impromptu calculation and said it didn't equal the employee's salary, since he had seen the man's previous year's W2. Canouse could not explain but said she would look into it. On Monday, Canouse explained that the reason it did not add up was because there was another category that added to the above mentioned areas, which was for vacation, holidays and sick days.

Township resident Rachel Hendricks said she felt these benefits — vacation, sick, holiday — were far too generous for the only full time township employee. Clark pointed out that this employee often saved the township money with his other areas of expertise, such as the work he does on township equipment. Hendricks said she was certain that he did a great job but that she meant the township should look at revamping the employee handbook so that in the future the benefits for anyone new coming into the position would be scaled back. Williams said that they would look into it.

In other business
Roads — Williams said that since the last meeting there had been several snow storms and an ice storm. Although fluctuating temperatures — alternating melting and re-freezing of roadways — caused some minor problems, the township handled the inclement weather situations well and there were no reported accidents or incidents.

8K run — Robert Millard representing the Grey Towers announced that they would be conducting another 8K run this year on April 26 — the route going from Grey Towers to Milford Beach and back. He said that last year there were about 100 participants and that about 150 were expected this year. Volunteers would be guiding the runners along the route. The purpose of the run, Millard explained was to bring public awareness to the Heritage Association and what they do in the areas of conservation education. This year also happens to be the 50th anniversary of the towers commitment to public service, having been turned over to the park service by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Reorganization — The first meeting of the new year saw the required reorganization of the township board take place. Quick was once again named chairman of the township board of supervisors, while Clark was named the new vice- chairman. Williams was renamed roadmaster, Viola Canouse continued her tenure as secretary / treasury, attorney Douglas Jacobs retained his position as township solicitor and Robert DiLorenzo was re-appointed as zoning and sewage enforcement officer. All other positions in the township remained the same with the following additions / exceptions. Attorney John Klemeyer was added as alternate solicitor. Code Inspections was added as alternative sewage enforcement officer. )Both this position and their duties as the township's Building Code Official is only viable until their contract ends in June.) Kenneth Rosanelli was reappointed for another six year term on the township planning commission.

Also, a motion was made and passed for the township to follow the Pike County schedule of holidays.

Next meeting — With the next scheduled Monday being an official holiday, the next township supervisor meeting will be held on Tuesday Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. in the township administration building.